Cross-curricular mastery: maths and science in Year 2

|9 min read

Editor’s Note:

This post is part of our Cross-curricular mastery series. Here, you’ll find tips and advice to help you make the most of the links between maths and other subjects.


By the time learners get to Year 2, they start to apply their maths knowledge in different contexts. Making links between maths and science helps to consolidate learning in both subjects and build problem-solving skills.


Maths mastery highlights how useful maths is because learners apply their knowledge in a range of different contexts. It is especially important in Year 2, where an entire SAT paper requires children to reason and problem solve in context-based questions.

Weaving other subjects into your lessons is a great way for learners to solve mathematical problems in different contexts. Here’s how to consolidate maths skills within science lessons in Year 2. The lessons are:

  • Ordered chronologically based on the Maths — No Problem! long-term planning for Year 2
  • Cover all of the knowledge-based objectives in the science curriculum and the maths objectives in the areas stated

Animals, including humans and number and place value (Autumn Term)

Animals (especially humans) are a familiar topic for children. There are lots of changes over the lifetime of a human, so it’s a perfect context for helping children to understand place value to two digits by relating it to age.

Lesson 1: Animals timeline

Maths objectives

  • Identify, represent and estimate numbers using different representations, including the number line
  • Count in steps of 2, 3, and 5 from 0, and in tens from any number, forward and backward
  • Recognise the place value of each digit in a two-digit number (tens, ones)

Science objectives

  • Notice that animals, including humans, have offspring which grow into adults

Show children a timeline that goes from 0 to 100 and get them to draw what they think a human would look like at those different ages. Then ask them to illustrate how many birthday candles would be on their cake.

Ninety candles is a lot to draw, so ask them to draw bigger candles for tens and little dot candles for ones. You can link this to using Dienes for place value.

After some research, children can draw number lines for different animals that count up in ones, twos, threes, fives or tens depending on the life span of the animal chosen.

Lesson 2: Animal survival

Maths objectives

  • Read and write numbers to at least 100 in numerals and in words

Science objectives

  • Find out about and describe the basic needs of animals, including humans, for survival (water, food and air)
  • Describe the importance for humans of exercise, eating the right amounts of different types of food, and hygiene

For this lesson, get children to write an advice/fact booklet on ‘How to be a human.’ You could say an alien wants to know everything about humans for its own school project and has asked for their help.

Ask the children to list facts about themselves using numerals: how long they can hold their breath, how many teeth do they have. Then ask them to write up in words how to keep a human healthy by including how much water to drink each day, how much food they should eat, how much exercise they should get, how long to brush teeth for, how long to wash hands for, how many showers or baths they need a week, etc.


Plants and measurement (Autumn Term)

Plants are perfect to match with measurement because their growth fascinates children. You can even link this to literacy by using a book such as Jack and the Beanstalk or non-fiction texts about plants to further interest the children.

Lesson 1: Seeds and bulbs

Maths objectives

  • Choose and use appropriate standard units to estimate and measure the following using rulers, scales, thermometers and measuring vessels:
    • Length/height in any direction in metres or centimetres
    • Mass in kilograms or grams
    • Temperature in degrees Celsius
    • Capacity in litres or millilitres

Science objectives

  • Observe and describe how seeds and bulbs grow into mature plants

This next activity is a science experiment taking place over an extended period. To start, have learners observe different seeds and bulbs and record their mass and length before planting them in see-through containers.

Weigh the soil and make sure the children put the same amount on each seed and bulb. Measure the amount of water poured on each seed and bulb and then measure the weight and length of the seeds and bulbs over time. Keep a class — or individual — diary of the changes to the bulbs’ and seeds’ weight and appearance.

Lesson 2: Plant survival

Maths objectives

  • Compare and order length, mass and volume/capacity and record the results using the greater than (>), less than (<) and equals (=) symbols

Science objectives

  • Find out and describe how plants need water, light and a suitable temperature to grow and stay healthy

Learning about plants means using longer experiments, but you can get plants that grow very quickly, like cress, for this experiment.

Measure the soil and mass of the seeds before planting them in see-through containers and have the children choose places for them to grow. In each chosen place, put two containers and record the temperature and the light every day as well as the length of the plants, and measure out the amount of water to put in each container.

After a week, use the data to order the containers by the cresses’ height and by the volume of water used. Ask the class to discuss their conclusions on the data and findings.


Advance your skills online

New to maths mastery or looking to sharpen your skills? There’s an online CPD course to support every practitioner, from the fundamentals to advanced techniques.

two overlapping browser windows; one with a Maths — No Problem! logo and a title that says "Online Training" and the other with two maths mastery instructors and learning resources

Living things, habitats and statistics (Spring Term)

Due to the vast number of living things and habitats, this subject fits in superbly with statistics because it is all about how to manage data gathered. It also lets your learners observe and infer data about a topic that interests them, which will encourage them to ask questions and want to understand statistical data.

Lesson 1: Living, dead or never alive

Maths objectives

  • Interpret and construct simple pictograms and tables, tally charts and block diagrams
  • Ask and answer simple questions by counting the number of objects in each category and sorting the categories by quantity

Science objectives

  • Explore and compare the differences between things that are living, dead, and things that have never been alive

Ask the children to draw a tally chart and go on a walk around the school to find things that they can mark off as living, dead or never alive.

When you get back to the classroom, discuss which category they assigned to things like leaf litter, wooden chairs, fruit and paper. Which category should they be in? Why? Use the data to make pictograms and bar charts and question the class on the data gathered.

Lesson 2: Habitats

Maths objectives

  • Interpret and construct simple pictograms and tables, tally charts and block diagrams
  • Ask and answer simple questions by counting the number of objects in each category and sorting the categories by quantity
  • Ask and answer questions about totalling and comparing categorical data

Science objectives

  • Identify that most animals and plants live in habitats to which they are suited and describe how different habitats provide for the basic needs of different kinds of creatures.Also describe how different organisms depend on each other
  • Identify and name a variety of plants and animals in their habitats, including microhabitats

Show your learners some pictures of animals that live in cold climates. Discuss the names of the animals and similarities about them. Ask them to make a bar chart of the fur/feather/skin colour of the animals. What do they notice? Why do they think a majority have white fur?

Repeat the activity by asking how many animals which live in the sea have gills.

  • Can the children explain why this might be?
  • What other ways are animals suited to their habitats?
  • Can they prove it by researching animals or plants and recording their data using a method of their choosing?

Lesson 3: Food chains

Maths objectives

  • Interpret and construct simple pictograms and tables, tally charts and block diagrams
  • Ask and answer simple questions by counting the number of objects in each category and sorting the categories by quantity
  • Ask and answer questions about totalling and comparing categorical data

Science objectives

  • Describe how animals obtain their food from plants and other animals using the idea of a simple food chain, and identify and name different sources of food

Take the children birdwatching and tally the different birds they see. Turn the data into a block diagram and identify which birds they observed the most often. Discuss the birds’ food chains and try to deduce the availability of the sources of food and number of predators in the area.

Then show your class a block diagram of animals in another environment, such as under the sea or in the desert. Ask your learners to convert the data into a pictogram and then determine the food chain of one of the animals using the data gathered.


Use of everyday materials and shapes (Spring Term)

These subjects link together well because what better way to learn about 3-D shapes and their properties than to attempt to make them! The opportunity to analyse whether you can or can’t make some shapes from different materials will lead learners to use lots of essential vocabulary from both subjects.

Lesson 1: Material uses

Maths objectives

  • Compare and sort common 2-D and 3-D shapes and everyday objects

Science objectives

  • Identify and compare the suitability of a variety of everyday materials, including wood, metal, plastic, glass, brick, rock, paper and cardboard for particular uses

Show children a variety of objects that are identifiable 2-D and 3-D shapes, such as a globe, a postcard, a rubber, a pencil, a drink can, dice, a football, and ask them to sort them based on their properties. Then show them pieces of different materials and have them sort the objects based on the material they’re made from.

Ask about the shapes and materials to generate discussion.

  • What if a football was made of glass?
  • What if a drinks can was a cube?

Lesson 2: Material properties

Maths objectives

  • Identify and describe the properties of 3-D shapes, including the number of edges, vertices and faces
  • Identify 2-D shapes on the surface of 3-D shapes, for example a circle on a cylinder and a triangle on a pyramid

Science objectives

  • Find out how the shapes of solid objects made from some materials can be changed by squashing, bending, twisting and stretching

Discuss what children know about 3-D shapes and the key vocabulary we use when talking about them. Give children a range of different materials, such as a block of wood, a carrier bag, playdough, some blue tack and tin foil, and ask them to make the 3-D shapes.

  • Which materials can they make the shapes with?
  • Which can’t be used to make 3-D shapes?
  • Are any materials particularly tricky to form the vertices, faces or edges with? If so, why?
  • What other materials could you use?

Year 2 is a big year for learners and teachers. With the possibility of moderation as SATs, all subjects must be covered in-depth and foster a good level of understanding.

Putting concepts into contexts and over-learning are both useful ways to do this. Covering maths objectives during science — or science during maths — allows learners to acquire evidence of both subjects and consolidate learning.